An Indiana doctor was fined $3,000 after she performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been raped and was unable to obtain the procedure in her own state, thanks to the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard was fined not for the procedure itself, but for speaking publicly about it, and was accused by the state’s Republican assistant attorney general of being “blatant in pursuing (her) own agenda.”
The case came to a head after the Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022 decision to strike down the 50-year law.
Ohio’s near-total abortion ban went into effect immediately: It banned all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant.
Abortion is legal in Indiana, up to 21 weeks and six days. An Indiana law that completely banned abortion in Indiana went into effect on September 15, but is being challenged in court and is currently not in effect.
Bernard broke down in tears Thursday when told he would not lose his medical license.
Dr. Caitlin Bernard was fined $3,000 Thursday for performing an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim and then speaking publicly about it.
But the state Medical Licensing Board voted that she broke privacy laws by telling a reporter about the girl’s treatment.
However, the board rejected allegations by Indiana’s Republican attorney general that Bernard violated state law by failing to report child abuse to Indiana authorities.
Board members opted to fine Bernard $3,000 for the violations, and denied a request by the attorney general’s office to suspend Bernard’s license.
Bernard has always defended his actions, telling the board on Thursday that he followed Indiana hospital policy and reporting requirements in notifying hospital social workers of child abuse, and that Ohio authorities were already investigating. the rape of the girl.
Bernard’s lawyers also said she did not release any identifying information about the girl that would violate privacy laws.
The Indianapolis Star cited the girl’s case in a July 1 article that sparked a national political uproar in the weeks after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last summer.
Some Republican media outlets and politicians falsely suggested that Bernard fabricated the story, until a 27-year-old man was accused of rape in Columbus, Ohio.
During an event at the White House, President Joe Biden was about to shout his outrage over the case.
Bernard, left, sits between attorneys John Hoover and Alice Morical Thursday before a hearing in front of the state medical board in Indianapolis.
The state medical board meets Thursday in downtown Indianapolis to hear Bernard’s case.
Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, left, a pediatric physician at the IU School of Medicine, and Dr. Caroline E. Rouse, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at the IU School of Medicine, line up outside a ward lectures to support Bernard on Thursday.
Board chairman Dr. John Strobel said he believed Bernard went too far in telling a reporter about the girl’s pending abortion, and that doctors should be careful about observing patient privacy.
“I don’t think she was expecting this to go viral,” Strobel said of Bernard.
“I don’t think she expected this attention to go to this patient. She did it. Occurred.’
Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, told the board Thursday that the doctor reported child abuse of patients many times a year and that a hospital social worker had confirmed with Ohio child protection staff that it was safe for the girl to be out with her mother.
“Dr. Bernard could not have anticipated the unusual and intense scrutiny this story received,” Morical said.
“She didn’t expect politicians to say that she made up the story.”
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s complaint called for the licensing board to impose “appropriate disciplinary action” but did not specify the sanction requested.
Amid the wave of attention on the girl’s case last summer, Rokita, who is stridently anti-abortion, told Fox News she would investigate Bernard’s actions, calling her an “abortion activist who acts as a doctor.” “.
Rokita said it wanted the licensing board to impose ‘appropriate disciplinary action’
Bernard insisted that she acted in the girl’s best interest and did not report the rape to Indiana authorities because the case was already being investigated in the girl’s home state of Ohio.
Assistant Attorney General Cory Voight argued Thursday that the board needed to address what he called an “egregious violation” of patient privacy and Bernard’s failure to notify the Indiana Department of Children’s Services and police about the violation. .
“There hasn’t been a case like this before the board,” Voight said.
“No doctor has been so brazen in pursuing his own agenda.”
Voight asked Bernard why he discussed the case of the Ohio girl with the newspaper reporter and later in other media interviews instead of using a hypothetical situation.
“I think it’s incredibly important that people understand the real-world impacts of this country’s abortion laws,” Bernard said.
“I think it’s important that people know what patients are going to go through because of the legislation that’s being passed, and a scenario doesn’t have that impact.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Rokita’s office kept up a running commentary on his official Twitter account, with a post saying: “When Bernard spoke about the high priority he places on legislation and speaking to the public, he did so to expense of his own patient”. .
“This shows where your priorities lie as an activist rather than as a doctor.”
Bernard took issue with Voight saying his choice to publicly discuss the case led to the misconduct allegations.
“I think if Attorney General Todd Rokita hadn’t chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said.
Lawyers for the attorney general’s office repeatedly raised questions about whether the policy of Bernard’s employer, Indiana University Health, of reporting suspected child abuse to authorities in the state where the abuse occurred complied with Indiana law.
Officials from IU Health, which is the largest hospital system in the state, testified that the Indiana Department of Children’s Services had never previously opposed the hospital’s policy.
The Indiana board, with five doctors and an attorney present who were appointed or reappointed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, had wide latitude under state law that allowed it to issue letters of reprimand or suspend, revoke or place on probation a medical license. .
The Ohio law imposing a near-ban on abortion was in effect for about two months, before being put on hold as a lawsuit against it unfolds.
The Republican-dominated Indiana Legislature passed a statewide abortion ban weeks after the Ohio girl’s case drew attention, but abortions continue to be allowed in the state while awaiting a court decision. Indiana Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ban.
Bernard tried unsuccessfully to block Rokita’s investigation last fall, though an Indianapolis judge wrote that Rokita committed “clearly unlawful violations” of state confidentiality laws with its public comments about investigating the doctor before filing the medical leave complaint. against him.